Series at Cedarcroft Bible Chapel

October 1, 8, 15, 1989

Dr. Robert C. Newman

 

CHRISTIANS & THE STATE

 

Introduction

 

            Time of increasing tensions between evan Xns and government, whether federal, state or local govt.

            Various areas of tension:

                        public school vs Xn school for declining no. of students        

                        state oversight of Xn schools

                        tax exemption for Xn organizations

                        prayer & Bible reading in public schools

                        religious interest groups using public school property

                        growing pluralism in US, w/ pressure for women's rights, gay rights, etc.

            Two major areas of concern for Xns:

                        (1) What is right thing to do in each case?

                        (2) Who has authority and how much?

            Want to concentrate on 2nd area:

                        What does Bible say about relationship of believers – individually and collectively – to the state?

 

The Old Testament Background

 

Creation (Gen 1 & 2)

   

            God has created both earth & mankind, so He owns them to use as He sees fit (cp Rom 9:16‑24, esp 20‑21).

            Man does not absolutely own himself or anything else, but holds self and property as a trust from God.

            Biblical view contrasts sharply with

                        (1) Statism ‑ state has absolute authority

                        (2) Individualism ‑ individual has abs authority

 

GodŐs Worldwide Covenants

 

            Adamic Covenant (Gen 1:28; 2:15‑25)

                        Mankind is given authority over earth, its plants & animals.

                        Family authority also established.

                        The Fall apparently did not nullify this disposition, though it is made more difficult by curses:

                                    On childbirth, family, agriculture (3:16‑19)

                                    On relations with animals (9:2)

 


                        Here we have origin of human authority, property and (with fall) of crime; nothing explicit on govt. beyond family.

 

            Noachian Covenant (Gen 9:1‑17)

                        Apparently extends man's authority over man (vv 5‑6) when cp with cases of Cain, Lamech earlier.

                        Looks like some sort of govt with power of life & death is instituted to punish sin.

 

            God's Limitations on Man via These Worldwide Arrangements

 

                        Seen in God's Judgments:

                                    Flood (Gen 6‑8) ‑ for general wickedness

                                    Babel (Gen 11) ‑ for disobedience, pride

                                    Sodom & Gomorrah (Gen 18‑19) ‑ for great wickedness, sodomy; misuse of wealth (Ezk 16:49‑50); note evid of protective function of righteous.

 

                        Denounced by God's Prophets:

                                    Amos against various nations:

                                                Damascus (1:3) ‑ threshing Gilead

                                                Philistia, Tyre (1:6,9) ‑ deportation

                                                Edom (1:11) ‑ warfare, cruelty, vengeance

                                                Ammon (1;13) ‑ aggression, atrocities

                                                Moab (2:1) ‑ murder, desecration of corpse?

                                    Jonah & Nahum against Nineveh:

                                                Jonah (1:2) ‑ wickedness

                                                Nahum (1:2) ‑ enmity toward God

                                                            (1:15) ‑ afflicting Judah

                                                            (3:19) ‑ afflicting others

                                    Daniel against Babylonian kings:

                                                Nebuchadnezzar (ch 4) ‑ pride

                                                Belshazzar (ch 5) ‑ pride, mocking God

 

GodŐs Covenants with Israel

 

            Above covenants made with all people, may still be in force even where Gospel has not penetrated.

            Covenants below (incl NT) apply to restricted groups at enactment (Israel, church), but prob to be broadened in Millennium.

 

            Abrahamic Covenant (Gen 12,13,15,17,22)

                        No explicit form of govt established.

                        Promises of blessing developed.

 

            Mosaic Covenant (Exodus ‑ Deuteronomy)

 

                        Offices of prophet, priest & king established, with latter two (at least) kept separate.

                                    (1) Prophet (Deut 18:15‑22) ‑ chosen by God individually; put to death if false (presumably by govt); act as "advisors" for govt.

                                    (2) Priest (Ex 28‑29) ‑ chosen by God as dynasty, clearly specified by law (enforced by whom?); no govt functions.

                                    (3) King (Deut 17:14‑20) ‑ chosen by God, to be set up by people later (becomes dynasty under Davidic covenant); restrictions: Israelite, few horses (military), wives (alliances, idolatry, promiscuity), moderate wealth; period of judges suggest some ambivalence re/ form of govt?

 

                        Interaction of Individual & Offices

                                    (1) Indiv. & King:

                                                Ehud & Eglon (Judg 3:12‑30, esp 21)

                                                David & Saul (1 Sam 18 ‑ 2 Sam 2, esp 24:10‑14

                                                            contrast Hazael (2 Kings 8:8‑15)

                                    (2) King & Prophet:

                                                obeying: Rehoboam & Shemaiah (1 Kings 12:21‑24)

                                                resisting: Jeroboam (13:1‑10, esp 4,6)

                                                testing: Ahab & Michaiah (22:26‑28)

                                                killing: Joash & Zechariah (2 Chr 24:21‑22)

                                    (3) King & Priest:

                                                Uzziah & Azariah (2 Chr 26:16‑24)

                                                Athaliah & Jehoiada (2 Kings 11:1‑16)

 

                        Proverbs on Duties of King & Citizen

                                    (1) King

                                                16:10‑15 ‑ divine commission, concern w/ truth, punishment

                                                25:2 ‑ investigation

                                                29:4,12,14 ‑ dangers of bribery, falsehood

                                                31:2‑9 ‑ dangers of women & wine; defend defenseless

                                    (2) Citizen

                                                16:13‑14; 20:2; 25:15 ‑ be righteous, don't make trouble; persuade

                                                24:21‑22 ‑ fear God & the king

                                                25:6‑7 ‑ be humble

 


The New Testament Teaching

 

Basic Passages

 

            Matthew 22:15‑22:  Pay Taxes to Caesar

                        Background History: Palestine conquered by Romans 63 BC; rule thru Herod the Great 37‑4 BC, then a series of Rom governors after Archelaus deposed AD 6; at this time (JesusŐ ministry) governor was Pilate (incidents of Rom stds.; taking temple money to build aqueduct; killing Galileans while        sacrificing)

                        Jewish views covered a wide spectrum:

                                    Sadducees, Herodians ‑ cooperation

                                    Pharisees ‑ grudging obedience

                                    Zealots ‑ revolt

                        Taxation: high, imposed, corruption

                        Coinage: images, inscriptions

                        Dilemma posed by Jesus' opponents to put him on spot:

                                    (1) Allow payment: collaboration w/ enemy, condoning emperor's claims; discredited w/ crowd

                                    (2) Forbid payment: treason; discredited w/ govt

                        Jesus' answer:

                                    gets coin from opponents, who (having one) have left selves open (and demonstrated hypocrisy)

                                    Jesus' tells them to give it back to owner

                        Teaching on govt:

                                    two spheres clearly indicated, but relationship not; separate?  God's sphere includes govt's?

                                    note terminology: not "temple & Caesar", but "God and Caesar"

                                    clearly Jesus teaches responsibility to both, but not an equality of authority; Jesus hardly pictures God as being excluded from Caesar's sphere.

 

            Romans 13:1‑7:  Obey Your Rulers

                        (1) God is source not only of authority in general, but of every particular authority as well.

                        (2) Therefore we disobey God in resisting authorities.

                        (3‑4) Govt authority is intended to limit evil (and succeeds); it serves God by rewarding righteous & punishing wicked.

                        (5) therefore we submit both to obey God & avoid govt punishment.

                        (6‑7) we must pay taxes, even tribute money to govt, respect its officers, submit to them.

 

            1 Peter 2:11‑17:  Live as Servants of God

                        (11‑12) context: we are "strangers" here on earth, so we must resist living like "natives"; we are to have a "beautiful lifestyle."

                        (13‑14) this lifestyle involves submission to govt authorities for God's sake as they are intended to reward righteous & punish wicked.

                        (15) God's purpose in this for us as "strangers": "put to silence ignorance of foolish men."

                        (16‑17) summary: don't use Christian freedom as pretext for wickedness; honor all, love Xns, fear God, honor king.

 

Some Specific Examples

 

            John the Baptist & Herod Antipas (Mk 6:16‑29, esp 17‑18)

                        Apparently JB publicly rebukes political leader; no attempt to organize revolt.

            Peter & John vs Temple Authorities (Acts 4:1‑31, esp 18‑20; 5:17‑42, esp 28‑29, 38‑42) Refuse to obey authorities when they forbid what God demands; but take consequences rather than organizing revolt; non‑violent resistance.

            Paul w/ Sanhedrin (Acts 23:1‑10, esp 3‑5, 6; cp 24:21)

                        Paul seems to be uneasy about his remarks to High Priest and his trick in splitting Sanhdedrin; suggests responsibility to show respect even when not "deserved."

            Paul w/ Felix (Acts 24:10‑27, esp 11‑12, 19‑20, 24‑25, 26)

                        Appeals to evidence, witnesses; uses opportunities to present Gospel; apparently refuses to pay a bribe.

            Paul w/ Festus (Acts 25:6‑12, esp 7‑8, 9‑11)

                        Appeals to evidence; admits right of tribunal to put him to death; uses available legal remedies.

            Paul w/ Festus, Agrippa (Acts 26:1‑32, esp 22‑29)

                        Again uses opportunity to present Gospel.

 

Conclusions

 

            Limits to State (& Religious) Authority

                        No men given "blank check" from God;

                                    Prophets are closest, but they are closely tested and have no political power;

                                    The authority of religious leaders over political is persuasive & moral only.

            Obedience to God Takes Precedence

                        Individual or group must obey its conscience, though this does not exempt them from political penalties.

                        Leaders have greater responsibility as they may punish.

            No Automatic Right to Rebel

                        Disobedience of leaders does not cancel their authority over subordinates, though subordinates may have to disobey in particular points.

                        Case of Ehud suggests that rebellion may need explicit revelation; no evid for      different NT ethic here.